Pontiac Ram Air IV GTO convertibles are ready to roar at Mecum Indy


Of all the General Motors brands that built muscle cars from the mid ’60s through the early ’70s, Pontiac seemed to have the most fun. Chevy had its big-block brutes, Buick its 455-powered sleepers, and Oldsmobile brought big torque and understated looks with the 4-4-2. Pontiac, on the other hand, matched its powerful V-8 GTOs with hood-mounted tachometers and graphics that could be described as both outlandish and campy. We love all of it.

The Ram Air IV GTO convertible, with its 370-hp 400-cubic-inch V-8, was offered in 1969 and 1970 only and is among the most sought-after Pontiacs of the era. Collectors looking to get in on the brand’s muscle car charm have two opportunities at Mecum’s upcoming Indy sale (May 12–20), where one Ram Air IV GTO from each year is available: a 1969 in Cameo White and a 1970 Judge in Palladium Silver.

Pontiac’s Ram Air IV V-8 paired the “041” camshaft from 1968’s Ram Air II engine—308/320 degrees of duration and .469 inches of lift—with improved round-port heads. Most Pontiac V-8s used D-shaped exhaust ports. Placing the two center exhaust ports close together with the mirrored D-shaped ports sharing a port wall made it difficult to achieve proper exhaust flow at high engine speeds. Round-port heads enabled tuners to build headers that really woke the engine up. However, the cast-iron Ram Air IV exhaust manifolds are surprisingly good at their job and are much closer to a cast header than a typical log manifold that just dumps all of the exhaust gases abruptly into a common collector. The excellent low-end torque of the engine and its 370-hp top end make it one of the most beloved muscle car engines of the era.

Both of the drop-tops are equipped with a Turbo 400 three-speed auto transmission, and both have a hood-mounted tach, but they do differ in design and equipment. Choose either the wide twin grille of the 1969 model or the angry snout of the ’70 Judge. The Judge’s sharp graphics complement the GTO’s bulging creases, while the ’69 GTO in Cameo White is quite understated for a GTO.

1969 Pontiac GTO

The ’69 model, lot F191, comes with its two original exhaust manifolds—one is currently installed, the other is included—as well as its original heads, distributor, and alternator. It won Best Restored at the 1990 GTOAA Nationals, before going into the Otis Chandler Collection from 1992 to 1999. The car is fitted with a blue interior and equipped with a 3.90:1 Saf-T-Track limited-slip rear axle, power steering, and power brakes.

1970 Pontiac GTO Judge

The ’70 model, lot F149, is one of just seven Judge convertibles ordered with an automatic, and its frame-off restoration helped it win a Concours Gold award at the 2015 Muscle Car and Corvette Nationals. It comes with Rally II wheels and a black interior. This car’s rarity, along with its desirable engine and the fact that it’s a Judge, all make it one of the most valuable Pontiac muscle cars ever.

Both GTOs cross the block on May 19, and either one would make an excellent addition to a muscle car collection, so we’ll be watching to see where they end up. Given their similar underpinnings and drivetrains, which GTO look is the winner in your book?




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